Sheep Industry Business Innovation

SIBI Pasture and Sheep Management Professional Development day 

SIBI hosted a very successful professional development (PD) day on sheep and pasture management for FARMANCO consultants and agronomists in Pingelly on the 21st April. The PD training days are aimed improving the technical skills of consultants and agribusiness representatives.

The day was organised by SIBI Research Officer, Perry Dolling, who discussed 'How to boost sheep numbers quickly and cost-effectively'. Other presentations from DAFWA included Phil Nichols who presented on 'Legume pastures and their place in WA’s farming systems' and 'New pasture legumes for WA' and Beth Paganoni who spoke on 'Lifetime ewe management and optimising ewe efficiency'

The knowledge and skills learnt during these PD days help increase the profitability of sheep enterprises and provide the flow on effects  of greater profitability to those not only in agribusiness but also to the wider community. The half day or one day sessions are designed to provide the latest information from Lifetime Ewe Management on the nutritional requirements for the ewe to improve reproduction rates and the management required to realise those increases in reproductive potential. The training also focuses on pasture establishment, agronomy and management. Issues dealt with include overcoming the pasture feed gap, improving pasture quality and re-establishment of pastures in a crop rotation. 

Participants rated their overall satisfaction of the day’s workshop very highly, with one participant commenting that it was a great day with an excellent mix of information and discussion. 

For further information or to participate in a future PD training day, please contact Perry Dolling on 9821 3261 or

LTEM Builds Indigenous People’s Sheep Management Skills in the South

DAFWA’s Sheep Industry Business Innovation (SIBI) project, in partnership with the department’s Aboriginal Business Development (ABD) team, is delivering practical livestock management training to Aboriginal landowners.

The Lifetime Ewe Management course is a nationally accredited course involving groups of 5-6 producers and six ‘hands-on’ sessions over a period of 12 months.
During the course, key topics covered include:

  • weaning and preparing ewes for next year’s joining;
  • linking ewe condition at joining with lambing potential;
  • pregnancy management and the impacts of ewe nutrition;
  • looking forward and planning for lambing — optimising lamb survival and future productivity;
  • setting up for joining in the second season — manipulating ewe condition and preparing rams;
  • economic analysis of different feeding strategies.

Attendees are part way through the course and include landholders from Woolkabunning Kiaka Incorporated, Dowrene Farm Aboriginal Corporation and Banjelungup Aboriginal Corporation with properties based at Bremer Bay, Cranbrook and Bunbury.

Bruce Loo, of the Banjelungup Aboriginal Corporation, which runs a sheep property at Bremer Bay, said the program had brought expert advice and knowledge to help overcome the obstacles for running successful sheep enterprises.

“As a group, we now have land but accept we have low or no skills in sheep production,” he said.

“When we arrived for training, we thought sheep farming was quite simple but what we’ve learned through this course is there is a lot of science behind it, such as the protein and energy requirements for healthy sheep throughout the year.

“The LTEM approach is a most effective model for Noongar people’s learning, in a relaxed, hands-on environment.”

Lifetime Ewe Management course participants Lee Hart, Dustin Riley, Kelvin Quartermaine, Bruce Loo, Ian Walsh, Rhys Bonshore with DAFWA officers Mark Chmielewski, Perry Dolling, Kelvin Flugge and Steve Tunbridge.
Lifetime Ewe Management course participants Lee Hart, Dustin Riley, Kelvin Quartermaine, Bruce Loo, Ian Walsh, Rhys Bonshore with DAFWA officers Mark Chmielewski, Perry Dolling, Kelvin Flugge and Steve Tunbridge.

For more information please visit the Lifetime Ewe Management webpage

Labour saving tools to make sheep work easier

One of the exciting initiatives within SIBI’s new on-farm technology activity is case studies into key labour-saving tools to make running sheep easier. The specific tools have been identified by the new on-farm technology pilot group as having a positive impact on labour efficiency and the operator’s time management and wellbeing.

The outcomes of the case studies will include a YouTube video, an economic benefit – cost analysis, a feature article and a downloadable audio podcast featuring an interview with the farmer who has successfully integrated the tool into their sheep management. To date, the video on remote monitoring featuring Chris Patmore in Eneabba has been viewed over 800 times. Some grower groups have invited Chris to speak at their forums as a result of the video and Chris additionally attended the Bewety and the Feast open day in Katanning to further his involvement in the SIBI project.

The most recent case studies to go live include using laneways to increase labour efficiency and an automated jetting race for flystrike prevention.

Andrew Slade, who is a member of the new on-farm technology pilot group as well as the Stirlings to Coast grower group, runs a farm with his wife Nicole, parents David and Lyn, sister Vanessa and brother-in-law Scott. The Slade family began constructing a 40 km laneway system through their farm 20 years. As a result of the investment, they halved the amount of time taken moving, feeding and checking sheep, plus moving equipment around. This has saved them over 1300 hours per year, or more than half a labour unit. The payback period for their investment into the laneways is around 7 years.

Andrew Slade
Andrew Slade is a member of the new on-farm technology pilot group.

Another labour saving tool the Slade family have invested in is the use of an automated jetting race for flystrike prevention. Previously, when jetting by hand they would have to jet their sheep a minimum of two to three times per year to prevent browfly strike. With the use of the automated jetting race, they have halved their chemical and labour used. Consequently the payback period for their investment is around 2 years.

Andrew Slade driving
Andrew driving on the Slade family farm

More information on the laneways and automated jetting race case studies can be found on the New on-farm technology activity webpage.

Filming is currently underway for case studies on sheep handlers and the use of Pedigree Matchmaker for determining dam pedigree. Future case studies will involve electronic identification (EID), on-farm connectivity (WIFI) and other labour-saving tools.

For more information on the new on-farm technology activity, contact John Paul Collins on or +61 8 9821 3249

Big crowd flocks to Bewety and the Feast

On 31 May 2017, the Sheep Industry Business Innovation (SIBI) project hosted an Open Day titled “Bewety and the Feast” at the Katanning Research Facility. The event  hosted more than 185 sheep industry participants, including producers, researchers, students and other industry stakeholders.

Presentations from SIBI team members, the University of Western Australia (UWA) and Murdoch University researchers highlighted advancements in research and technology within the WA sheep industry.

DAFWA Research Officer Beth Paganoni ensured her presentation was interactive by dressing in an eye-catching retro tutu and wig combination, and creating ‘Siri’s rave cave’ with fox deterrent lights doubling as makeshift disco lights in her ‘data disco’.

Tyne Logan from the ABC interviews DAFWA staff member Beth Paganoni
Tyne Logan from the ABC interviews DAFWA staff member Beth Paganoni

Other DAFWA presentations included a talk on new on-farm technology by Research Officer John Paul Collins and a presentation on sheep genetics by Research Officer Johan Greeff.

Sheep Industry Development Director Dr Bruce Mullan said the event provided a key opportunity for sheep industry stakeholders to discuss a variety of relevant topics.

“Events such as these are important to highlight new innovations in the field and to build relationships with stakeholders in the sheep industry,” Bruce said.

“Regional events allow DAFWA to have a hands-on approach and show advances in the field in a practical sense, rather than just theoretical knowledge.”

The event concluded with a sundowner sponsored by Landmark, CSBP, Elders, Tru-Test and AgriWebb. Catering included delicious dry-aged mutton chorizo and pastrami from Moojepin.

DAFWA staff member John Paul Collins during his presentation
DAFWA staff member John Paul Collins during his presentation

The Open Day has received overwhelmingly positive feedback, and the date for the 2018 event has been set as 30 March 2018. To download a copy of the proceedings, please visit the Bewety and the Feast webpage

The KRF Open Day was made possible by DAFWA’s Sheep Industry Business Innovation project, supported by Royalties for Regions, and in partnership with the Sheep Alliance of WA.

Western Australian flock demographics

Following two decades of decline the Western Australian (WA) sheep flock reached its lowest number in mid-2011 when it numbered just 14.0 million head following a severe drought in the prime sheep producing regions of WA. Between 2010/11 and 2012/13 the flock went through a recovery phase rebuilding to 15.5 million, an increase of 10%. However, over the following two years the size of the WA flock contracted, declining to 14.0 million by mid-2015, before rising to approximately 14.3 million in 2016 (Figure 1).

Similarly the number of breeding ewes has also declined during the last ten years. In 2004/05 there were 13.3 million ewes but this number has fallen to 7.5 million in 2015/16.

Whilst declining in absolute terms, WA sheep turn-off as a proportion of the flock size has increased in recent years. This is reflective of the rising importance of sheepmeat, increasing marking rates and the changing structure of the flock. In 2004/05 turn-off as a percentage of the flock was less than 30% however this has risen to 41% in 2015/16.

Figure 1  Closing number of sheep and lambs, and closing number of breeding ewes in WA and total turn-off for WA (Based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, Department of Agriculture and Food, WA (DAFWA) analysis)
Figure 1  Closing number of sheep and lambs, and closing number of breeding ewes in WA and total turn-off for WA (Based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, Department of Agriculture and Food, WA (DAFWA) analysis)[1] [1] 2015/16* DAFWA estimate.

Over the last 25 years, the WA sheep flock has changed in structure and composition. As evident in Figure 2 the breeding ewe component of the flock has increased significantly from 45% in 1990 to 62% in 2015, whilst at the same time the proportion of wethers in the flock has decreased from 32% to 9%. This is largely due to the rising importance of sheepmeat, especially lamb, to the sheep enterprise and the reduced reliance on wool due to low prices following the stockpile era.

Figure 2 Changes in the Western Australian flock composition between 1990 and 2015 (Based on ABARES AgSurf data, DAFWA analysis)
Figure 2 Changes in the Western Australian flock composition between 1990 and 2015 (Based on ABARES AgSurf data, DAFWA analysis)
Flock Projection

It is estimated that the WA sheep flock may number just 12.9 million in mid-2017 as seen below in Table 1.

Table 1 Western Australian flock projection 2016/17

Opening number of sheep



Number of ewes joined 6.6 million
Marking rate 88%
Lambs marked (est.) 5.81 million
Turn off  
Lambs slaughtered 3.2 million
Sheep slaughtered 1.0 million
Live exports 1.9 million
Interstate movements 0.3 million
Total turn off (est.) 6.37 million
Losses (~6%) 0.9 million
Closing number of sheep (est.) 12.9 million

In July 2016 it is estimated that the total number of sheep and lambs in WA was 14.3 million head. The five year averages indicate approximately 5.81 million lambs marked and total turn-off, which includes sheep and lamb slaughter, live export and interstate transfers, is projected to reach around 6.37 million. Including an allowance for losses on farm, this gives a closing number of 12.9 million sheep for the close of the 2016/17 financial year- a year on year decrease of 10%.

For further detail please see the latest edition of Sheep Notes

Unique ‘paddock to plate’ experience informs and inspires

In the lead up to Australia Day, Katanning played host to the inaugural Sheep Meat Value Chain training program. A select group of more than 25 tertiary trained undergraduates, post graduates and some already in the industry completed an intensive one-week training program in the Great Southern, focused on sheep meat supply chains and markets.

The training program, designed by the Department of Agriculture and Food’s Sheep Industry Business Innovation (SIBI) project, and run in partnership with the University of Queensland’s Business School Executive Education focused on broadening participants’ understanding of the industry, while also encouraging them to pursue career opportunities in the sheep supply chain.

The course was a balance between the theoretical concepts of agrifood supply chain management, delivered and facilitated by Professor Bryceson, as well as an intensive ‘walk-the-chain’ process incorporating field visits and presentations from key industry practitioners and leaders.

Department Senior Development Officer Justin Hardy said that it was inspiring to see the enthusiasm and interest the course generated in the participants and their ability to quickly grasp the whole-of-chain concepts and develop practical and innovative ideas.

Students from five universities, with varied science, agribusiness and other mixed backgrounds indicated that the course more than achieved its aim to increase their understanding of the industry, while also encouraging them to look for career opportunities in the sheep meat supply chain.

Murdoch University post graduate student Steve Connaughton who is investigating DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) imaging technology to predict body composition of lambs along an abattoir chain said he now has a better understanding of the value and importance of his research and where/how it applies across the supply chain. It has also made him more mindful on how he presents results to the sheep industry in the future.

Course participants learnt about all stages of the chain from sheep production (breeding, nutrition), feedlots, trading, retail and live export. This enabled them to consider a wide range of current supply chain issues and future opportunities for both domestic and export of sheep meat including consumer demand and preference, markets, production systems, animal welfare, processing, quality assurance, traceability, logistics, pricing, trust, business structures and product development.

The group was treated to an informal talk from Roger Fletcher, owner of Fletcher International abattoirs and gained insights into his vertically integrated business model and the sheep industry in general.

Participants also attended a dinner with sheep producers, held at the modern Katanning Sale Yards, taste testing their products from various production systems including dry-aged mutton from Moojepin Stud and hogget from saltland pastures in the Cranbrook region.

In an endeavour to draw out the learning, participants worked in groups towards a competitive presentation on the final day. The winning group developed an interactive program to enhance the consumer experience at the supermarket whilst providing useful feedback on quality and preference to the processor and producer.

Course participants of the inaugural Sheep Meat Value Chain training program meet with Rod Bushell, Manager of the modern Katanning sale yards to learn about the logistics and procedure involved with the auction system of trading sheep.
Course participants of the inaugural Sheep Meat Value Chain training program meet with Rod Bushell, Manager of the modern Katanning sale yards to learn about the logistics and procedure involved with the auction system of trading sheep.

SIBI staff profile: Karlee Bertola

Having grown up on her grandparents' farm near the airport in Albany, Karlee has had a long affinity with land, environment and farming. Karlee studied a Bachelor of Environmental Science at the University of Western Australia, majoring in restoration ecology and graduating in 2010. Following that, Karlee found some work at the Gillamii centre in Cranbrook where she assisted with saline grazing projects and management plans for the region. In 2011 Karlee secured a three month contract to work with the Indigenous Landholder Service (now called Aboriginal Business Development).

During her time at DAFWA Karlee has completed environmental management plans, soil testing, water sampling, and business planning workshops. She splits her time equally between the SIBI project to engage with Noongar landowners interested in starting up sheep enterprises on their properties, and Indigenous Agriculture Management.

Karlee Bertola
DAFWA Development Officer Karlee Bertola

The SIBI project has provided a great opportunity for Noongar landholders to build their capacity and engage in the sheep industry. Through the project DAFWA has been able to provide planning that has guided landholders on what business models would work best on their properties. Many of the properties DAFWA works with are currently leased, but the SIBI project has provided a way for landholders to explore other options and the potential to get into sheep in the future. A vision amongst landholders is to eventually develop an Indigenous branded meat product to supply to China.

One of Karlee's favourite roles is organising the Lifetime Ewe Management course for Indigenous landholders. The course has been interactive, hands-on and fun, which is great for learning. Landholders are already taking their skills back to their corporations and applying the skills on their own farms.

In her spare time Karlee likes to paint, and sheep often feature in her paintings!

painting of sheep in field
One of Karlee's paintings, titled "Early Morning at the Farm I"